Pentagon Thinks US Soldiers Need Adult Super-Vision
New firm PixelOptics of Roanoke, VA has announced that it will receive $3.5 million from the Defense Department to develop “SuperVision,” a technology that may improve the vision of US soldiers beyond 20/20 via electro-active prescription lenses. The technology uses sensors and electro-active transparent material to alter the index of refraction of the lens dynamically, without any moving parts.
This provides a number of performance advantages, allowing the wearer to instantly achieve optimal vision no matter where they look (far, near, or in-between). In addition, lenses based on this technology show promise for significantly reducing momentary blurring caused by head tilt and movement, as well as distortion associated with conventional state of the art bifocals and progressive addition lenses.
So, how can these glasses provide vision that’s better than 20/20?
The idea is that by adjusting the refractive index of an array of transparent pixels contained within the lens, it may also be possible to correct for higher-order aberrations in the human eye that were not previously amenable to improvement. Dr. Dwight Duston, the firm’s Executive Vice President of Research and Development and Military Programs and program manager for the military’s project, explains:
“Certain nonuniformities within the human eye are the cause of most vision deficiencies. Conventional aberrations, such as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia), can be corrected with normal spectacle lenses to give 20/20 vision.
The spatial density of light receptors in the retina, however, is enough to allow human eyes to see better than 20/20, perhaps as well as 20/08. However, higher-order aberrations in the eye prevent us from attaining this “SuperVision” (the ability to have optimized vision better than 20/20).
These aberrations (e.g., coma, spherical aberration, trefoil, unconventional astigmatism) are not correctable with current conventional lenses available today from most eye care professionals.”
Chief Technology Officer Bill Kokonaski added:
“Higher-order aberrations of the human eye are dynamic, not static. Conventional refractive error such as myopia (nearsighted), hyperopia (farsighted) and regular astigmatism are static. However, higher-order aberrations change depending upon many factors, including the environment. Pixel’s patented technology allows for a dynamic solution to a dynamic problem.
For more details, see the SpaceWar.com article, and PixelOptics’ web site. The firm is a very new company that recently received a pair of venture funding rounds to continue development of its technology.
On October 18, 2005, Life Science Angels, Inc. was the lead and sole participant in a round of funding which provided $465,000 in bridge financing to further develop PixelOptic’s electro-active technology. At the time, PixelOptics also anticipated closing a much larger round of angel and VC funding. Which came true soon enough.
On January 3, 2006, San Diego-based Boston Health Fund (a subsidiary of Boston Equities) put in up to $32 million in equity and debt to Pixel over time, in order to “finish the development of Pixel’s revolutionary dynamic focusing eyeglasses for the correction of presbyopia, grow the company and to begin the commercialization effort.”
This military contract effectively represents an additional round of funding for an area of PixelOptics’ technology that had potential, but wouldn’t have been a focus for commercial research at this stage.
If the concepts prove out in practice, PixelOptics’ “Super Vision” technology will offer military personnel both with and without glasses an opportunity to improve their vision in combat zones. This will in turn widen PixelOptics’ market substantially beyond people who need bifocals, while providing a natural “ladder” of customers who have experience with (and dedication to) their product.
Senator John Warner [R-VA] was thanked by the company for his support during the procurement process.